The Producers Panel at REAP gives farmers an opportunity to explain the challenges they are facing to technologists and researchers. These clearly articulated needs, interpreted by the right person, could form the basis for a new business idea or solution.
Tim Whitehead is one of the producers on the panel. He works for Velcourt, Europe’s largest farm management and advisory company and is the farm manager on Vine Farm in Hertfordshire. Tim also provides agronomic advice to a large farmer-owned co-operative in Northern France.
Vine Farm benefits from nutrient rich clay soils and the 1300 Ha is used for winter wheat, winter oil seed rape, spring beans, peas, spring barley and sugar beet. The farm is diversifying with 100 Ha being converted into a solar farm for the National Grid.
Tim Whitehead believes that for farmers to adopt new innovation there has to be a defendable business case. Vine Farm has embraced both GPS and satellite imaging of the farm. He says: “GPS has made a significant impact on the farm as tractors can follow exactly the same tracks (within 2cms) helping cultivate the land, plant seeds and apply fertiliser in the right location minimising waste.
“However, I am unsure if there is a strong business case to support satellite imaging. The technology allows variable rate application of seed, fertiliser and pesticides depending on crop viability but with nutrient rich clay soils I am not convinced how economically viable it is to the business.”
Tim would like to exchange ideas with anyone who’s had similar experiences or to someone who can persuade him of the benefits to his business.
We will be aiming to stimulate this debate at REAP and think that Tim and others will be particularly interested in the insights of Vladimir Stoiljkovic, Business Development Manager of Satellite Applications Catapult. The Catapult helps organisations to use, and benefit from, satellite technologies.
More information about REAP is available here.